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The Athena melon is a medium sized cantaloupe type melon averaging 5-6 pounds. The exterior has a tough rind with a coarse netting covering a tan to faint orange skin. The inside of the Athena has a classic cantaloupe appearance, a thin ring of bright green at the rind turning to a dense orange flesh which surrounds a small central seed cavity. The Athena melon is known for its ability to maintain a firm texture and juicy consistency even when till on the vine and at its peak of ripeness. Its flavor as well is consistently of exceptional sweetness and offers aromatics of flowers and honey. When ripe and at room temperature the Athena melon will have a sweet melon aroma, particularly at its stem end.
The Athena Melon is available in the summer.
The Athena melon is a hybrid variety of cantaloupe that is botanically classified as a part of Cucumis melo reticulatus and a member of the Cucurbitaceae family. Botanically speaking it is a muskmelon though commercially in the United States we refer to the Athena and most other muskmelon types as cantaloupes. The Athena melon was created to be a commercial variety of cantaloupe that could successfully be grown in the eastern United States. It was bred specifically to stay firm when ripe and have an excellent holding ability both in terms of shelf life and shipping. It is currently one of the most popular cantaloupe (muskmelon) cultivars in the southeastern United States.
Orange fleshed melons such as the Athena are rich in beta-carotene which is converted to vitamin A in the body. The Athena melon also offers folate, potassium, fiber, and vitamin C.
Athena melons can be utilized in most preparations that call for muskmelon or cantaloupe. They are best used fresh and uncooked, and their flavor will complement both sweet and savory preparations. Sliced melon can be wrapped in prosciutto and served as a classic Italian apperitivo. Cubed melon works well in fruit salads, particularly when combined with complimentary ingredients such as honeydew melon, berries, grapes, fresh mint, and lime. Pureed Athena melon can be used to make sorbet, cocktails, or a chilled summer soup. The sweet flavor of Athena melon pairs well with arugula, basil, tomato, cucumber, citrus, yogurt, cottage cheese, goat cheese, cured meats, and balsamic vinegar. To prolong shelf life Athena melons should be kept refrigerated until ready for use. For best quality they should be used within 2 to 3 weeks of harvest. If preferred uncut melons can be kept at room temperature as long as they are used within a few days.
In the United States, the terms cantaloupe and muskmelon are often used interchangeably, all cantaloupes are muskmelons, but not all muskmelons are cantaloupes. Technically, the term cantaloupe refers to two varieties of muskmelon: Cucumis melo cantalupensis which has a ribbed light green skin, and Cucumis melo reticulatus which has a net-like surface. The Athena melon with its highly netted skin is the latter of the two types.
The Athena melon is a hybrid cantaloupe developed and commercially released by Syngenta Seed Company in 1993. In the United States, there are eastern and western cantaloupes (muskmelons). Western types tend to be less perishable than eastern types. The Athena was created to break this mold and provide a shipping quality, disease resistant, exceptionally flavored cantaloupe for commercial production in the eastern United States. The Athena melon matures in approximately 75 days, and fruits will stay fresh even when harvested at the full slip or fully ripe stage.
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